Gamepads…normally not worth mentioning, because both Microsoft and Sony add high-quality controllers to their current consoles, which leave only a few wishes unfulfilled. And yet: when I was on the road with Microsoft’s Elite controller for the first time, it immediately felt better than the normal input device. Quality workmanship and additional buttons provided a more precise, intuitive and ultimately significantly better experience. For a long time, I saw the elite as the benchmark of all controller things – until I held the Razer Raiju for PlayStation 4 and the Razer Wolverine Ultimate for Xbox One in my hands for the first time.
More is more
The most striking feature of both controllers are the additional buttons, on which you can place any of the other button covers. They are located next to the conventional shoulder buttons and on the underside and can be most easily reached with the middle finger. The Raiju has two buttons in this spot, whereas the Wolverine even four. And these four or six buttons are not only immediately noticeable, they are the main reason why I now prefer to play this way!
On the one hand, switching controls around is very easy: you hold down a setup button at the bottom of the controller, then press the button to be configured and then the button whose function the new one is to take over. In this way, it is not only the geometric keys of the PS4 pad or the letter keys of the Xbox controller that can be assigned to the new buttons, but also a direction of the cross pad, a pressing of the touch panel, a shoulder button, a share, option, menu, or view button.
Finally free to see
On the other hand, this allows much more freedom of play – ideally you will never have to take your right thumb off the analog stick again, because you can, for example, jump with the additional left bumper, recharge with the right one, duck with the lower left button, and switch weapons with the lower right one. This means that you can finally keep looking around, which can be crucial at least in a competitive shooter.
In Rainbow Six Siege, for example, more precise drop shots are possible. In Destiny, you can do double and triple jumps without ever taking your thumb off the right stick. Looking around in Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is much easier if you put it on a button at the bottom. The same is true for the fast evasion in Cuphead and in the spiritual sequel to Descent, Overload, you could just as easily place the gliding up and down of the ship on the bottom keys as turning around your own axis.
The additional shoulder buttons inspire me most of all. The fact that more and more games have discovered jumping via the left bumper is no coincidence: It feels intuitive and allows for greater freedom of movement and viewing. And both Raiju and Wolverine offer this freedom in every game – that’s an enormous gain in quality! Overcoming obstacles in shooters without manually jumping also benefits from this haptic change.
The right pressure
You have to get used to it! I didn’t have the new controls in me from one day to the next. It reminded me of how hard I – a classic PC player – had to fight with the Xbox controller when first getting into playing Halo. Movement processes change and a short while necessarily goes by before you master them intuitively. Once you have internalized them, you don’t want to go back.
The Razer buttons are far superior to the Elite controller’s paddles. In addition to the better arrangement of all keys, the buttons on the underside are so “stiff” that you won’t accidentally press them when holding the gamepad firmly in your hands. I almost completely ignored the Microsoft pedals after a while, but I would never want to do without the Raiju and Wolverine keys again. In fact, I’ve even sold the elite in the meantime. The production quality is generally a notch higher, but haptically it just falls behind the Razer pads.
The better touch
Apart from that, it is also the conventional keys that are mostly high-quality. They click and sound similar to good mouse buttons. The latter should not be underestimated: As silly as it sounds, especially the new shoulder buttons and the touchpad of the Raiju are a pleasure to press. The straight-cut touchpad is also a clear improvement over the Sony original because the noticeably clicking switches on both sides fit better for use in many games than the vague pressure field of the Dual Shock 4.
The four main keys are also superior to the original controllers as their pressure points can be heard and felt. The same applies to the options and share buttons, but not to the menu and view buttons on the Wolverine. Unfortunately, buttons without clicks are used instead of keys with a perceptible pressure point. Of course, this doesn’t really have an effect, but it is noticeable in the comparison. The bumpers, i.e., the classic upper shoulder buttons with a slightly lower stroke and a weaker pressure point, also feel more spongy than those of the Raiju.
Two in the wrong place
And these are by no means the only differences. After all, there are four buttons on the bottom of the Wolverine instead of two, which can, of course, be an advantage. However, I found it relatively difficult to operate these keys. This is mainly due to the fact that their shape and arrangement differ markedly from the “hook” on the underside of the Raiju. One can hardly miss the “hook” (a single, evidently protruding object) while the same cannot be said of the two flat, immediately adjacent keys of the Wolverine. Unlike the Raiju, you have to move your entire hand a little bit to press one of these buttons and watch out to press the right one. That was rather detrimental to my gaming experience.
My solution: I have assigned the same function to both keys on one side. So I can press with the middle finger any elevation get the desired result. This is not an elegant solution, but it fitted me better than double occupancy.
Faster, slower – more accurate?
One reason I can live with the sacrifice is the fact that I didn’t get comfortable with one of the exclusive functions of the Wolverine Ultimate: an additional acceleration or deceleration of the analog sticks, i.e., an increase or decrease of the sensitivity of the surrounding area. Each of the six additional buttons could trigger the desired effect, but one of the lower buttons is the one that works best.
It’s super on paper! And in fact, it offers a lot of flexibility to skillful players if they adjust a shooter, for example, so that they can continue to look around as quickly when looking over the rear sight and sight as they would without the weapon. With the middle finger button pulled out, they could slow down the view at any time to aim more precisely with or without zoom. Or they could keep the default settings and add a third deceleration.
This works, but it requires so much training and sensitivity that I prefer to do without it. The focused haptic improvements of the Raiju or Wolverine without manipulation of the stick acceleration are much better for me.
When it comes to analog sticks, both Razer devices have very little on one another. Their resistance is reminiscent of the normal Xbox One and lies between the quite tight PS4 and the slightly smooth-running sticks of the Elite. I like the height of the Raiju-Sticks the most, as long as you leave the wonderfully handy protective caps on them.
Unfortunately, real annoyance is caused by the inaccuracy that has started to affect my sticks after about three weeks, because of which they now give inputs of their own volition. Even if I don’t touch them, the view, the character or the chosen menu item sometimes moves slightly. It’s a small drop of bitterness, which doesn’t really have an effect on play, but understandably still annoys.
Additional sticks and discs
The Wolverine Ultimate, on the other hand, is delivered with additional sticks similar to the Elite: a particularly high convex one and another that is reminiscent of the Dual Shock 3. It’s strange that they don’t come in pairs, but I haven’t used either the high or the convex sticks on the Elite. Maybe most of the players behave similarly and Razer made a pragmatic decision. I can only speculate about that, however. In any case, the magnetic parts are exchanged by simply pulling them off and plugging them in.
Just like the elite, the Wolverine’s digital cross is also interchangeable. You can choose between one with more prominent keys and one that is not reminiscent of the Elite’s disc but is easier to slide over with your thumb.
The greatest weakness
By the way – and I have to say this very clearly: both the Raiju’s cross pad and the two of the Wolverine are by far the biggest weakness of the controllers! When operating menus and triggering small actions, they work perfectly. The direction keys are too slow to use, especially on the Raiju, because the four independent keys are too far apart to work effectively in games like the Tekken series.
The Wolverine’s disc offers the best experience here, especially since it is made of one piece, unlike the Raiju and the alternative Wolverine variant with buttons that are also independent of each other; this means that you can also play a beat-‘em-up game. The bottom line, however, is that the perpendicularly arranged rockers of the original controllers offer more control than the Razer’s
Analog or digital?
Razer offers a possibility – that is now becoming standard in almost all high-quality gamepads – to configure the two lower shoulder buttons independently of each other in such a way that you only have to pull them a short distance use them, e.g., to fire a weapon, since the analog movement turns into a digital one. This is perfect for pinball machines and shooters. Xbox One players should know that the Wolverine also benefits of the impulse-triggers of the Microsoft pads.
What Razer does not offer is the adjustment of the acceleration of analog sticks and shoulder keys depending on their deflection. Unlike the Elite or the Nacon Revolution, it is therefore not possible to determine that a stick triggers a very fast movement at low inclination or vice versa. Macros are also not created. Through the Synapse application one can determine how strongly a held key of the Wolverine influences the reaction of both sticks (see info box above), but the basic behavior of the controller is not changed.
I’m all right with that. I didn’t use the corresponding functions of the elite and other controllers and I think it’s good that Razer consistently implements a focused concept without getting lost in trifles, which would mean time-consuming fiddling for almost all players without any significant added value.
The Raiju and the Wolverine take on a function which Microsoft headsets had already implemented a long way back and that I miss since then: at the lower edge of the gamepad, there is a button that allows you to mute a headset connected by cable. So you don’t have to take your hand off the controller if you don’t want to cough into your fellow players’ ears, which is an enormous gain in comfort.
The volume is also regulated by a button at the same place – it’s just a pity that you can’t adjust the balance between game and chat volume on the Raiju. With Wolverine this is possible. With the Raiju you still have to open the PS4’s party menu.
Another key on the “Quick Control Panel” allows you to quickly change the key assignments and switch between two profiles, although I don’t use the latter. On the one hand, two profiles are of course not enough to cover all possibilities, on the other hand, the buttons are assigned so quickly that I simply change the corresponding setting if necessary. Apart from that, a certain standard has now crept in: I use the abovementioned distribution of the four geometrical or letter keys in most games.
Last but not least, both Raiju and Wolverine feel great in the hands. They are clearly superior to the Dual Shock 4; in fact, the Razer pads are reminiscent of the Xbox One controller, whereby the Raiju is a little wider. For me it feels best, especially since I also find the analog sticks, made relatively wide by the rubberized covers to be very comfortable.
It is worth mentioning that the rubber on the grips makes it easier to hold them in place, but that dirt accumulates relatively quickly in the deep profile. In contrast to the Wolverine, the system button does not turn on the PS4, but only activates the pad when the console is running. And last but not least: I didn’t manage to use the rumble function on my PC. It just doesn’t want to work on there, even though the Raiju shakes properly on a PlayStation 4.
The Wolverine’s rumble works fine both on Xbox One and on PC. It is only a bit odd that you must unplug the controller before you can plug a headset in it. And of course, if you want to use the volume control and mute one of the Razer controllers, you have to connect your headset via cable via the gamepad.
It’s not perfect and the slight inaccuracy of the analog sticks at zero input is annoying – but all in all the Razer Raiju is the best classic controller I’ve ever played with! It feels high quality, fits perfectly in the hand and due to the special arrangement of its additional keys, the right thumb almost never has to leave the analog stick. This gives the game a lightness and precision that I don’t want to do without anymore. In no time at all, you can assign any function to the additional buttons and enjoy precise, rich clicks of all keys including the touchpad. Comfort is written in capital letters, which is noticeable at the latest with the button directly attached to the gamepad to mute the microphone. The same goes, with minor negative differences, for the Wolverine Ultimate, which complicates the use with two more buttons but also offers a greater variety with variable acceleration of the analog sticks as well as interchangeable control crosses and analog sticks. It is important to know that the stiff or relatively imprecise control crosses of both pads are unsuitable for a few games. But for all others, both the Raiju and the Wolverine are a big quality gain!